FOR SALE: License Plate Investigative Database that Tracks Your Location

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Private License Plate Scanners Amassing Vast Databases Open to Highest Bidders

Investigative Database - License Plate Scanner Data for Sale

Investigative Database – License Plate Scanner Data for Sale

Automated license plate readers used by car repo companies, for example, collect billions of personal records per year, which contribute to vast databases that can be used by law enforcement, insurance companies, banks, and the like, with few limits.

BetaBoston, working with the Boston Globe, detailed one Boston repo company’s data collection abilities, reporting that New England Associates Inc. can collect $200 to $400 for each vehicle found by an automated reader attached to an unmarked car. The company says it can typically add 8,000 license plate scans to its database in Texas each day.

Digital Recognition Network, which works with New England Associates, says it collects plate scans of 40 percent of all US vehicles per year.

According to the company’s own disclosures, Digital Recognition Network operates in conjunction with around 400 repossession outfits across the US, has increased tenfold its plate scans since September 2010, and adds 70 million scans a month.

The scanners use high-speed cameras and optical character recognition technology to scoop up 1,800 plates a minute, no matter the speed or driving conditions. The scanner also collects the date, time, and GPS location of each read, punctuating the privacy threats associated with plate scanning.

The legal scanners, which usually cost anywhere from $10,000 to $17,000, have few legal limits.

For example, law enforcement – which have used the scanners for years – often have prohibitions on how long they can maintain the information gleaned, but private use is open season for those willing to subscribe for the information.

The top commercial use of the devices falls into the auto finance and auto repossession industries, which both work closely with major banks to track down those who default on loans. Digital Recognition claims its clients include Bank of America Corp., JPMorgan Chase & Co., HSBC Holdings, and Citibank.

Banks strongly encourage its repo contractors to use plate scanners, based on their efficiency in tracking down loan defaulters.

“The banks want it,” said Liran Cohen, owner of repo company Massachusetts Recovery Bureau. “All of them make a big deal out of it, since it gives them so much value.”

Yet with few limits, there is little, if any, accountability regarding where and how repossession companies use the scanners. Many companies that spoke to the Globe said they send spotter cars to commercial lots based on the amount of vehicles open for scanning.

Digital Recognition’s website lists “target environments” for repo agents, including “malls, movie theaters, sporting events, and numerous other locations.” The company also suggests repo agents trawl workplaces and commercial lots during the day and apartment complexes and residential areas at night.

Some commercial property owners call this practice trespassing.

“We’re unaware that this is happening, and we’re reaching out to our security teams and law enforcement contacts to get a better handle on it,” said Les Morris, spokesman for Simon Property Group, which owns at least one mall in the Boston area.

“If we saw scanning like this being done, we would throw them out,” said Issie Shait of New England Development, which owns the CambridgeSide Galleria and Bunker Hill Mall District.

Two repo companies said they target low-income housing areas, given the amount of yields collected in the past.

“This is just another example of stereotyping,” said Cambridge Housing Authority deputy executive director Michael Johnston. “But our lots are open, and we don’t have any gated communities in our system, so I don’t know how to prevent it.”

For its part, Digital Recognition said it cannot be blamed for how the scanners are used.

“We have nothing to do with the actual data collection process,” said Chris Metaxas, chief executive of Digital Recognition. “We provide technology to ¬repossession professionals.”

Over 60 Massachusetts police departments have adopted scanners since 2008. In December, the Boston police suspended plate scanner use after a Globe investigation found questionable data management – including the inadvertent public release of over 69,000 license plate numbers.

“Right now, it’s the wild West in terms of how companies can collect, process, and sell this kind of data,”said Kade Crockford of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “The best legal minds, best public policy thinkers, and ordinary people whose lives are affected need to sit down and think of meaningful ways we can regulate it.”

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Forbes

Data Brokers Are Now Selling Your Car’s Location For $10 Online

Investigative Database License Plate Scanners

Investigative Database License Plate Scanners

The Berkeley Marina, a stretch of park and an enclosed yacht harbor, juts into the San Francisco Bay.

Visitors regularly drive there to admire the dramatic view that includes Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge. When I lived in the area, I often parked my car, surveyed the vista for many minutes, then drove away if the weather did not prove ideal for windsurfing.

When fertilizer salesman Scott Peterson made his last visits to the Berkeley Marina from his hometown of Modesto, Calif., he had a practical goal in mind. He wanted to see whether his pregnant wife whom he had murdered had washed up along the shoreline. In the Peterson case a decade ago, police placed a GPS tracker onto his vehicles when they began to suspect that he was lying. Peterson had driven a few times to the marina homicide site, even though he told police he had only learned his wife had gone missing after returning from a fishing expedition to the San Francisco Bay. That GPS evidence eventually helped convict him of murder; he is now on death row.

I thought of this story, revealed at Peterson’s murder trial which I occasionally attended, when a prominent data broker announced two weeks ago that it had begun selling locational information on license plates that have been filmed and identified. In recent years, police have also widely embraced license plate recognition to track suspected criminals. Repo men use the technology to recover vehicles; casinos in Las Vegas employ it to monitor cars in their parking lots. And now data broker TLO has begun selling information about the time and location at which cars have been sighted.

“With a massive database of one BILLION vehicle sightings and the addition of up to 50 million new sightings each month, Vehicle Sightings provide valuable information for both locating subjects and investigating the historical whereabouts of both individuals and vehicles,” advertises TLO, a data broker that caters to lawyers, private investigators, law enforcement and insurance firms, among others.The service charges $10 per category of each license plate look up, divided into current, recent and historical.  Cars are photographed or filmed and then matched with license plate recognition software.

Initially I imagined a database that knew almost as much as a GPS locator: that you drove out of state three weekends ago, stopped off at the pharmacy on the way, spent the afternoon at a baseball game, then had dinner at a specific restaurant.

In reality, the feature is quite far from the all-knowing eye in the sky, although it can still reveal intimate clues. I searched for my own car, as well that those of two relatives with their permission. Of five cars that I looked up, three cars turned up nothing, but I found data on the other two.One car had a single sighting:  it was parked on Manhattan’s Upper West Side at 12:40 in the morning last December.  The report included a picture of the car and license plate. A link showed exactly where the car was on Google Maps. For another car, the search turned up data from August last year which showed it parked in Austin, Texas, a few minutes after noon. The lot was in front of a building of doctors’ offices, potentially revealing intimate information about that person’s activity that day.

Simple math suggests it may be a while before such license plate recognition systems can regularly spot specific vehicles. TLO advertises it has a billion vehicle sightings, but according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, there are more than a quarter of billion registered vehicles in the country.

That means TLO would hold an average of four sightings per vehicle.“While the coverage is nationwide, certainly there will be areas with more expansive coverage than others,” said James Reilly, TLO’s senior vice president of sales and business development. “Variables such as the amount of time the vehicles are stationed in inaccessible areas (i.e. secured lots at places of employment, gated communities, etc.) could certainly affect the number of opportunities for ‘sighting.’”

Law enforcement agencies are among  the biggest users of automated license plate recognition.

Forbes - License Plate Scanner Investigative Database

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Google Glass Gains Acceptance from Law Enforcement

The New York Police Department is Testing Google Glass

USA Today

Article Courtesy of:  USA Today

New York City Police Department Commissioner Bill Bratton confirmed the department is already using the smart glasses during a press conference last week.

“We’re in the process of field-testing that technology in a variety of circumstances, seeing where — if useful — where it might be most useful, most beneficial,” he said.

In December 2013, the NYPD obtained two pairs of the glasses, Deputy Commissioner Stephen Davis said.

In an email, Davis said the department regularly takes a look at emerging technology as a potential tool for policing. Glass has not been deployed in actual patrol operations, he said.

Currently, Google Glass is only available through the Glass Explorer Program in which those who feast their eyes on Glass apply online to become a part of the project. If approved by Google, Explorers can purchase the device for $1,500.

Google said in a statement the company did not actively approach and is not working with any law enforcement agency to offer tryouts of Google Glass.

“The Glass Explorer program includes people from all walks of life, including doctors, firefighters and parents,” read Google’s statement. “Anyone can sign up to become a Glass Explorer. The only requirements we have is that he or she is a U.S. resident and over the age of 18.”

The Los Angeles Police Department also applied to be Google Explorers, said police Sgt. Dan Gomez, who oversees the Tactical Technology Section for LAPD.

“We are looking to see how it could work and that doesn’t mean it will be used for patrol,” he said. “It could be used for other purposes but it’s hard to say what we would do without having it,” Gomez said.

Eric Farris, a police sergeant with the Byron, Ga., police department has tested Glass and said he thinks it could serve as a tool to solve investigations.

Google Glass Police Investigations

CopTrax, a surveillance vendor, collaborated with the Byron police department to provide officers with Glass during routine traffic enforcement patrol, stops issuing citations, arrests and during firearms practice.

“They had the CopTrax software loaded into the Google Glass and everything recorded with Glass was then recorded back to our camera system and police cruisers,” Farris said.

The San Francisco Police Department is in the process of outfitting its plainclothes officers with body cameras and won’t rule out Glass just yet.

“We have been looking at video cameras,” said Gordon Shyy, a public information officer at SFPD. “I don’t believe Google Glass is one of those, but we always look at any possibility with the current technology.”

Shyy said that the SFPD does talk to other agencies to see whether they like the equipment they are using, but the department has yet to speak with NYPD about Glass.

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USA Today

Article Courtesy of:  USA Today

Predictive Policing Software

Police play the odds in tracking crime:  Real Time Prediction Software Aids Investigations

Article Courtesy of:  Sun Sentinel

By Larry Barszewski | Article Courtesy of:  Sun Sentinel

Predictive Policing Investigative Database - LP Police

Predictive Policing – Link Analysis – Investigative Database – LP Police

FORT LAUDERDALE — It may not be a crystal ball, but police are testing a new system that more accurately predicts the likelihood of crime in your neighborhood.

The effort, called predictive policing, relies on computer software that analyzes information police have used for years, along with other data they may have never used before.

It can all be done in real time, quickly putting the information at the fingertips of police, possibly finding correlations they didn’t know existed.

A better name might be “probability policing,” said Jim Lingerfelt, of IBM, which developed the software, because the program tries to determine the odds of crime happening in a given area.

“You’re identifying those areas with the highest probability of a certain type of crime occurring,” said Lingerfelt, public safety manager for the company’s Global Smarter Cities initiative.

Palm Beach County police agencies have been exploring a similar idea through the county’s law enforcement exchange program.

Boca Raton Police Chief Dan Alexander said the exchange hasn’t developed any predictive tools, but plans to do so after implementing some more conventional data analysis methods.

The IBM program will take whatever information officials download — from building permits and crime reports to bus routes and the daily weather forecast — to see what it can tell police about potential criminal activity.

Among the data that could be compiled: the release date of a burglar who frequently targeted your neighborhood. Or building permits, which might show your neighbors are putting on additions, a magnet for thieves stealing construction materials. Or it could be that police reports are documenting a pattern of car break-ins that indicates your street may be next.

“It’s very similar to the information they had before,” Lingerfelt said. “But before it was very cumbersome, very labor intensive and nowhere near as complete as what they’re getting now in a matter of seconds.”

Patrol officers can start off the day on their laptop checking out the trends in their assigned areas, which can help them figure out how best to spend their time.

Command staff can use daily reports to direct resources to potential hot spots.

“I think every day that we wake up, that we’re part of this law enforcement environment, that we need to be creative and innovative and come up with the next best method on how do we reduce crime,” Police Chief Frank Adderley said.

Commissioner Bruce Roberts hopes the program will help police identify and keep track of repeat offenders, which he said could go a long way toward lowering the city’s crime rate.

“Most of your crimes are committed by a core few criminals,” said Roberts, a former police chief in the city. “When they’re released, they’ve been arrested again.”

The city last week approved using $200,000 in federal law enforcement dollars to pay overtime to a task force of detectives, patrol officers and others who can be assigned as needed, based on the computer analysis.

lbarszewski@tribune.com or 954-356-4556

Article Courtesy of:  Sun Sentinel

New Law Enforcement Software Tools – LP Police

LP Police "Law Enforcement & Government Agencies"
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(Boston, MA) – LP Police, America’s #1 Person, Cell Phone Search and Link Analysis Database for Government & Law Enforcement has developed an entirely new design and online user experience with the addition of the latest data containing billions of records.

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LP Police helps to make your job safer!

LP Police "Law Enforcement & Government Agencies"LP Police is committed to constant improvement and innovation.  A program of ongoing law enforcement focus groups has been put in place to perfect a user’s experience. Subscribers can now search all of the historical and current records to ensure the fastest and most accurate information every time. Police and government agencies can benefit from superior data and fast data access when it counts.  Quick Tip sections on the top of every page, coupled with VIP support, assist investigators through every step of a search.

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LP Police "Law Enforcement & Government Agencies"

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Predictive Policing Continues to Gain Wide Acceptance

Deutsche Welle Website - Investigative Database

Algorithms prevent crime before it happens

Police in the US, and increasingly in Europe, are using statistical models to predict where crime will happen next.

This computer-driven law enforcement has reduced crime, but has also raised civil liberties concerns.

Predictive Policing - Investigative Database

Predictive Policing – Investigative Database

The London Metropolitan Police Service has become the latest in a string of law enforcement agencies to adopt statistical software that aims to prevent crime by predicting where it will happen next.

Called PredPol, the computer program has been used for years in the United States, where it has apparently helped reduce the rate of assault, burglaries and robberies in major metro areas.

Developed at UCLA in California by mathmetician George Mohler and anthropologist Jeff Brantingham, PredPol runs historical crime data through an algorithm that then predicts which locations in a city are at a greater risk for repeat offenses.

PredPol is similar to statistical programs long used by major private sector companies. The online retailer Amazon, for example, collects data on customers’ buying habits to predict what they may want to purchase in the future. It then makes recommendations based on that data.

“A lot of police departments, and indeed other agencies of the state, have been looking quite enviously over at what large commercial companies are able to do,” Jamie Bartlett, with the British think tank Demos, told DW.

“You’ve seen all these incredible algorithms that can often predict with a remarkable degree of accuracy where someone is going to be, what sort behavior they’re likely to undertake on the basis of their expressed opinions or attitudes or behaviors,” Bartlett said.

Predictive policing

Based on its algorithm, PredPol generates maps that display 500-by-500 square foot hot spots where crimes are likely to occur again.

Law enforcement can then deploy to those locations at specific times of the day to deter crime before it happens.

The strategy is called “predictive policing.” Other companies such as IBM have developed similar software.

Law enforcement is taking a page out of Amazon’s playbook

“There’s the idea that somehow you’re making a forecast of the future, and it’s really just making a prediction based on historical data,” John Hollywood, with the Rand Corporation, told DW. “It’s just now we’re using more input variables.”

The input variables can include locations, types of crimes, times, dates and array of other data. Police in Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina even used foreclosure data to map out areas that were at higher risk for crime.

Savings through prevention

In Santa Cruz, California, Predpol helped reduce assaults by 9 percent, burglaries by 11 percent and robberies by 27 percent, according to police.

The Foothill Division of the Los Angeles Police Department claimed similar success, with a 25 percent drop in burglary. PredPol is now being used by several other major American cities, including Seattle and Atlanta.

In the United Kingdom, pilot programs have been implemented in Kent, Great Manchester, West Yorkshire and the West Midlands. In their national police vision, the 43 police departments of England and Wales have set a goal of adopting predictive analysis programs like PredPol by 2016.

According to Bartlett, law enforcement has joined a growing public sector trend of trying to save scarce money by focusing on prevention.

“Across a number of departments there have been lots of studies done that consistently demonstrate the value to the public purse to prevent bad things from happening than from cleaning up after them,” Bartlett said.

Civil liberties concerns

But critics warn that predictive policing could simply entrench racial profiling. Legal expert David Harris says that if a police officer already operates with a racial bias, predictive information that marks a particular location as higher risk could encourage the officer to detain someone with little real cause for suspicion.

“What’s happening in the police officer’s mind is that the racial characteristics or ethnic characteristics are proxies or substitutes for actual suspicious behavior,” Harris, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told DW.

“When you add to that the supposedly iron-clad data based predictions that crimes are going to be going on in this place, the potential for stops, frisks, detentions based on very little real evidence just grows,” he said.

But Hollywood claimed that during study he conducted for the Rand Corporation, privacy and civil liberties advocates saw predictive policing as a potential improvement over past practices, so long as the right protections were in place.

“[That’s] because the focus was actually on places and people that there was genuine data to suggest a threat as opposed to just declaring an entire neighborhood or an entire class of people as a likely threat and going after all them,” Hollywood said.

Predictive Policing - Investigative Database

Predictive Policing – Investigative Database

The trend to policing by algorithms raises legal issues

If the courts accept predictive crime modeling as a legitimate factor in concluding probable cause for suspicion, a host of new legal questions will have to be answered.

That’s according to legal expert Andrew Ferguson with the David A. Clarke School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia in Washington D.C.

“Other questions get opened because then we need to know how accurate is the data, how transparent is it, how are we supposed to evaluate whether this algorithm is actually crunching the right numbers – what are the right numbers?”

Deutsche Welle Website - Investigative Database

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